Tying hands and closing doors

Why not more unapproved music to start off? Here’s The Distance by Cake.

Today we’re returning to Training Faithful Women, a handbook about women’s ministry. Part 1 is here. Let’s look at reason number 4 for starting a “faithful women” ministry.

Faithful women 4

I don’t have too much issue with this reason, except that the text following it is so strangely confusing. The first several paragraphs are a rant about how the church, not the government, is responsible to take care of widows. Then they talk about how the church is only supposed to take care of widows whose family cannot help them. And there’s a quote from the Internal Revenue Service (how the heck did we get here from “provide a ministry”?) telling us that whoever takes care of widows is at the center of society. Finally, we get something that sorta, kinda, almost relates to the heading:

Godly widows

But wait; these widows have spent years earning these qualifications (by bringing up children, lodging strangers, meeting needs and helping the afflicted), which means they are already actively involved in fulfilling ministry. And how do these ladies manage to have “outstanding” qualifications (meaning they’ve been doing a lot of ministry) and still have “outstanding” availability? I’m just really having difficulty picturing this woman. She’s apparently been heavily involved in church ministry for decades (beginning before she lost her husband, I would assume), but apparently has stopped all ministry recently, which leaves her available to help young ladies. I have to wonder why she’s stopped ministering (and why that’s not a red flag) and why she would suddenly be willing to start again, since you don’t let go of a life-long habit without considerable thought.

Why am I making a big deal of this? It’s not heretical. This isn’t teaching that is going to cause problems in your church. But it doesn’t actually make sense. It’s poor, meandering writing that can’t decide where it’s going or what it’s trying to say. It has no logical flow and the writer can’t even manage to keep his focus on the heading he just wrote. As discussed previously, there are literally thousands of resources available on the topic of women’s ministry; given the choice, who would choose this one?

faithful women 5

Oh my word, this is terrifying. Please remember what these “Scriptural standards and qualifications” are in IBLP world. Also remember that Gothard just told us that the church should carry the sole responsibility of caring for a widow without a family. In Gothard’s ideal world, women are made to toe the line because they fear they may starve if they don’t follow the rules.

You don’t want to marry this man your father has picked out? You want to go to college? Leave an abusive husband? Send your kids to public school? Not teach the Wisdom booklets? Use birth control? Remember, one of these days, we may be the only people who can help you. And if you don’t live your life according to our rules, we won’t lift a finger.

In Gothard’s ideal world, women are bullied and pressured into following the church’s teaching on threat of complete Earthly ruin. How utterly horrifying.

faithful women 6

Oh boy. Here we go.

leaders need followers

That’s…wait…what? Isn’t that supposed to work…like…exactly the opposite way? I thought leaders inspired people, who then followed them. Where does this idea come from, and how the heck does Gothard get away with making a statement like this with nothing to back it up?

fragile egos

You really have to wonder why these guys are supposed to be the leaders. Apparently they can’t lead if they don’t first have followers, and their egos are so fragile they can’t handle their wife asking other people questions. Gothard isn’t describing a husband; he’s describing an insecure 13 year old kid.

Ahh…there’s so many things wrong with this that it’s hard to know where to start.

First of all, this is not how any healthy relationship works. No matter who you are married to, there is always going to be something that your spouse is better at than you, and things you are better at than your spouse. This is a good thing. You’re supposed to complement each other. You’re supposed to arrange your life in a way that makes the best use of both partners’ strengths, and allows each partner to cover for their spouse’s weaknesses. Marriage is not an ego trip for the man. If his wife knows more about the Scriptures than he does, he needs to recognize that and get over himself. If he wants to know more about the Bible, maybe a great start would be learning from his wife.

Second, this teaching undermines one of the most important roles of the body of Christ, namely, supporting and helping Christian families. You must be aware of a need to meet it, and telling women not to ask questions at church ties the hands of the church. How is a pastor to appropriately instruct his congregation if half of them aren’t allowed to even ask him questions?

Thirdly (and perhaps most scarily), this is yet another door of escape that is being closed for a woman in an abusive relationship. Not only is she not allowed to talk to the pastor about anything personal, she is not allowed to ask anyone except her husband any questions about the Scriptures. This would include the question “What does the Bible say about leaving a man who hits you?” Further tying the hands of women in these horrible situations is a grave, grave sin.

Finally, this puts incredible (and totally unnecessary) pressure on the husband. Regardless of how long he’s been a Christian, how much training he has (or hasn’t) received, or how well equipped he feels to answer her questions, a husband has the responsibility of knowing more than his wife, or of anyone that she might want to ask a question of. Picture this: a new Christian is approached by his wife, who says “I was going to ask one of the elders (who have spent decades studying the Scriptures) or the pastor (who is a seminary graduate), but I decided to ask you instead: how can we tell the difference between poetic imagery and factual prophecy in Revelation?”

What insane pressure to place on a brand new Christian! In the hands of an abuser, Gothard’s teachings on authority and male leadership are extremely dangerous. But even in the hands of a compassionate, loving husband, they are still a heavy, crushing burden.

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I’m Angry

I’m angry. I try not to become too emotional in my writing here, but I’m getting really ticked off. In the past few days several things have come together to make me so angry:

  • I participate pretty regularly on Recovering Grace’s Facebook support page. Just today, two different women have posted about abusive patterns from their parents. One woman is trying to deal with a mother who is controlling, and withholds love and support until the daughter does what she wants. Another woman spoke today about being cut off from her family because she doesn’t fit their ideal of a “Christian.” In the months I’ve been in that group, I’ve heard so many stories like that. People kicked out of their homes, cut off from siblings, told never to return. Families refusing to attend weddings, parents refusing to speak to their child’s spouse, parents who hold out love and respect as prizes to be earned by bending to their will.
  • That stupid, victim blaming counseling booklet from IBLP is still for sale. 
  • Frontline Family Ministries is hosting an event to talk about sexual abuse in the homeschooling community! Great idea!  Except…no, it’s a horrible idea! We don’t need people who victim blame their own daughter for her sexual abuse directing the discussion on this issue!
  • And a counselor (a counselor!) is responding to Cynthia Jeub with threats of legal action for speaking out. 
  • HSLD is still refusing to do anything (including removing their sponsorship of the magazine) about the TOS scandal. Talk is very cheap.

I’m angry that parents could be so heartless towards their very own flesh and blood. I’m angry that people who have spoken to us for years about the importance of “standing alone” refuse to stand up against abuse. I’m angry that those entrusted with the safety of the most vulnerable would use that position for a self-centered, power-fueled ego trip. I’m angry that, for all the talk about an “umbrella of protection,” so many of the darts are coming from moms and dads. I’m angry that a generation that made the bold decision to homeschool can’t stand the idea of their children thinking differently than they do. I’m angry that people are being forced to choose between a girl/boyfriend who loves them and parents who want to control. I’m angry that people who told us to be “mighty in spirit” are angry that we dare expose sin. I’m angry that defenders of the system want to talk in dry language about defending the reputation of Christ (as if they had even a tiny chance of doing such a thing), rather than having the compassion to show love to a victim of abuse. I’m angry at the parents who don’t have the guts to admit they believed a lie, but rather tell their children, “Oh, well, we didn’t actually believe those things!” I’m angry that people who went on ad nauseum about the “Commands of Christ,” are so willing to cast the first stone.

In short, I’m angry that this is a battle that needs to be fought. I’m angry at the hypocrites who built a system that protects their authority at all costs. I’m angry at the two-faced people whose “love” is conditioned on control. I’m angry at the petty tyrants who are threatened by children who can think for themselves.

I’m angry.